An exploratory, virtuosic, rhythmic, and lyrical composer and improviser, pianist Myra Melford emerged in the early '90s as one of the most highly acclaimed jazz pianists of the day, and she proved deserving of the accolades as her diverse body of work -- with an often strong spiritual focus -- continued into the 21st century. Melford's work reflected her primary musical mentors/influences: on piano, Don Pullen, whose percussive mannerisms she successively adapted; and, as a composer, Henry Threadgill, with whom she studied in the mid-'80s. Early on, Melford also professed an affinity for the blues styles she heard and studied as a youth in Chicago (she grew up in nearby Evanston, Illinois), which she incorporated into her avant-garde-tinged musical sensibility. As a youth, Melford studied boogie-woogie piano with Erwin Helfer, and she later attended college at Evergreen State in Olympia, Washington, where she studied with pianist Art Lande and developed an interest in jazz. She also attended the Cornish Institute in Seattle.